Tuesday, September 29, 2020

David Gushee's Failed Attempt to Affirm Same-Sex Marriage

 

I recently read David Gushee's Changing Our Minds. Gushee changed his mind about same sex marriage, moving from disaffirming to affirming.

As I went through the book, the one prevailing thought was that - I've read this stuff before. Very little, if anything, was new to me. And, chapters like "Two Odd Little Words" concern arsenokoites and malakoi, which are really not that little, nor odd. Gushee thinks we cannot know the meaning of these words. But scholars like Craig Keener, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Richard Hays, Michael Brown, and Robert Gagnon disagree.

So does New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle. Sprinkle writes that arsenokoites should be translated as "men who have sex with men." (See here.)

Sprinkle writes:

"I know that Robert Gagnon has stirred the pot on more than one occasion regarding the question of homosexuality. But the simple fact is: No one has thoroughly refuted his arguments. No one. David Gushee continues to repeat assumptions and arguments that have long been refuted by Gagnon. James Brownson may have challenged a couple points in Gagnon’s work (re: gender complementarity and some other interpretations in Gen 1-2), but even if we say that Brownson is right on these couple points, there are dozens of other exegetical conclusions that he didn’t address or didn’t convincingly refute. (Matthew) Vines didn’t deal very well with Gagnon’s work (didn’t even cite Gagnon in his chapter on 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1) and Justin Lee misrepresented him. And now, David Gushee repeats the error by tip-toeing around Gagnon’s ever-growing scholarly work on the topic.

The fact is, until affirming scholars can actually deal with and refute Gagnon’s arguments, or at least a good portion of them, their view will not be considered as a credible biblical option by those who have studied the (LGBT)  question more broadly. And by relying on previous affirming arguments—ones which have been thoroughly refuted by Gagnon and others—“new” affirming voices are entering the rodeo on a crippled pony."

Gagnon is arguably the New Testament scholar in this area. See his massive The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. (I have it, and have read it.) 

Gagnon has elsewhere written about Gushee's failure to engage, over the texts, with him. See here

In this article Gagnon concludes:

"When did I ever say that I wanted David Gushee to stop following Jesus? I just think that he shouldn't be citing Jesus as justification for shoddy work that deliberately hides from readers the problems with his exegesis of Scripture. Apparently now "intimidation" occurs when one scholar shows the deficiencies of a poorly argued position by another scholar who has the intellectual wherewithal to do much better but refuses to spend even a half hour to investigate the counterarguments. Gushee, like Vines and Justin Lee of the "Gay Christian Network," is an intellectual coward (I'm sorry to say). By that I mean that he deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments to his own ideological position and sometimes even misrepresents the views and credentials of scholars in order to advance that position."

Put Christianity aside, for a moment. Gushee's book is hermeneutically unconvincing. It's just really hard to get the Bible to affirm same sex marriage, when there is not one affirming verse in the entire Bible about this, and while the entire Bible is - like it or not - a heterosexual document that has God affirming marriage as between a man and a woman. For those who have a high view of the Bible's authority, this is important.

Narcissistic Kids and the 7 Deadly Sins

Image result for john piippo narcissism
The River Raisin, in Monroe
The "seven deadly sins" are, writes Jean Twenge, "a succinct summary of the symptoms of narcissism." Twenge writes:

"In his prescient 2001 book, Too Much of a Good Thing, child psychologist Dan Kindlon (Harvard) argued that modern parents too often spoil their children. “Compared to earlier generations, we are emotionally closer to our kids, they confide in us more, we have more fun with them,” he wrote. “But we are too indulgent. We give our kids too much and demand too little of them. I see it in the homes I visit, at the schools where I speak, in the family counseling I’ve done, and in the parents and children I encounter in shopping malls, supermarkets, and video stores.” Kindlon concentrated on upper-middle-class children in his book, but much of the overindulgence he documents seems to be trickling down the socioeconomic ladder. When children are overindulged, Kindlon argues, it leads to outcomes resembling the seven deadly sins: pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, and greed." (Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, p. 76)

Twenge says that America parents today...

... have become too indulgent...

... praise our children too much...

... and treat our children almost like royalty...

... and buy them t-shirts glorifying their exalted status.

American parents "have innocently made the mistake of idealizing their children instead of truly loving them... We may have veered too far toward obeying our children instead of them obeying us.”

Go to a mall, or a concert, or a movie, and you will find these kids there, in the wild. These are...  

"... the kids who have never been told no, whose sense of power and entitlement leaves onlookers breathless, the sand-kicking, foot-stomping, arm-twisting, wheedling, whining despots whose parents presumably deserve the company of the monsters they, after all, created.”(Twenge, 77)  


***
My two books are


 Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. 

Leading the Presence-Driven Church


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Influence

Maumee Bay State Park (Ohio)

As I watched the beautiful twenty-one-minute film with Bono (U2) and Eugene Peterson (The Message, et. al.), and heard Bono speak of how Eugene writings have influenced him (especially The Message and Run With the Horses), I thought of the power of influence. 

Here we have the power of small. 

Peterson is a small man with a capacious heart for God who pastored a relatively small church. 

I want to be like him.

I want to be used by God to influence people. Don't you? 

I want to be part of a community of influence.

 Eugene Peterson has helped me with this. I have slow-cooked through his The Contemplative Pastor at least three times. I see #4 on the horizon. Maybe after I finish reading Run With the Horses. I can't even get past the Preface, because Peterson writes:

"The American church seems to have lost its nerve. Leaders are stepping up to provide strategies of renewal and reform. If the sociologists are right, more and more people are becoming disappointed and disaffected with the church as it is and are increasingly marginalized. The most conspicuous response of the church at this loss of “market share” is to develop more sophisticated consumer approaches, more efficient management techniques. If people are not satisfied, we’ll find a way to woo them back with better publicity and glossier advertising. We’ll repackage church under fresh brand names. Since Americans are the world’s champion consumers, let’s offer the gospel on consumer terms, reinterpreting it as a way to satisfy their addiction to More and Better and Sexier. 
The huge irony is that the more the gospel is offered in consumer terms, the more the consumers are disappointed. The gospel is not a consumer product; it doesn’t satisfy what we think of as our “needs.” The life of Jeremiah is not an American “pursuit of happiness.” It is more like God’s pursuit of Jeremiah." (Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Kindle Locations 58-62) 

Wow. 

Everything in me resonates with this. 

Peterson is a crazy, prophetic bearded man typing on a computer overlooking a Montana lake. From his isolation come words for the world. Is anyone listening?

In America, masses of people say they believe in God and are "Christians." But in proportion to their size, their relative influence is miniscule. My college teaching experience and research tell me that "church" is not on the radar screen of most of today's young adults. 

You might be "small" as a person, or "small" as a church ("church"= a community of persons following after Jesus in his Kingdom-mission). There might only be twelve of you. Yet God could use you to influence the world. 

Remember the Twelve.

When I was traveling and teaching in central India I addressed a group of thirty medical students who were Jesus-followers. One of them asked me, "How can you start a revival?" My answer was, and still is: "When revival happens within you, then the revolution has begun." Historically this is how it always happens. Moves of God begin small. They don't happen in mega-situations. (For by far the most part, right?) God could do something in you, right now, that he could use to influence multitudes. 

Remember the mustard seed.

Could a mega-church have influence in proportion to its mega-ness? It's possible, but it would have to be muscular and lean. If a mega-church was the spiritual equivalent of one of the Biggest Losers, then we would have a huge, but flabby and non-influential church. It is a mega-task to maintain such a church with its massive size and massive couch-potato-ness (church with lots of spectators, with more criticism, since non-involvement produces critics). 

Remember the cost of discipleship.

Influence happens underground. God's Kingdom is an underground movement. It is subtle, subversive, revolutionary, and very powerful. This rarely (if ever) happens on TV or the Internet. We spectate and watch "revivals" happen on TV, but televised moves of God are not themselves moves of God (or rarely so). 

Remember the seed growing secretly.

Leadership is influence. Therefore everyone is a leader. Leaders for Christ are led by Christ. Therefore they hang tight with Christ, and the stuff that made for Christ's influence gets into them. 

Remember that we participate in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

Linda and I were sitting in a Subway, eating lunch together. She had just begun to read Run with the Horses. She said, "John, you have got to see this quote from Peterson, who is quoting William McNamara."

My grievance with contemporary society is with its decrepitude. There are few towering pleasures to allure me, almost no beauty to bewitch me, nothing erotic to arouse me, no intellectual circles or positions to challenge or provoke me, no burgeoning philosophies or theologies and no new art to catch my attention or engage my mind, no arousing political, social, or religious movements to stimulate or excite me. There are no free men to lead me. No saints to inspire me. No sinners sinful enough to either impress me or share my plight. No one human enough to validate the “going” lifestyle. It is hard to linger in that dull world without being dulled. 
I stake the future on the few humble and hearty lovers who seek God passionately in the marvelous, messy world of redeemed and related realities that lie in front of our noses.

"The few." The influencers. I want to be counted among them, don't you?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Community Is Where Humility and Glory Touch

 




With Al Willingham in Eldoret, Kenya


(For many, COVID has changed this. They want to engage with community, but cannot at this time. This does not change the human need for community, and the fact that the Bible is a community document, not an individuated document. COVID threatens community. This is part of its insidiousness.)


Linda and I have begun our 29th year at Redeemer. We love our church family. And, we love seeing them and being with them on Sunday mornings.

In my 50 years as a Jesus-follower, and our 47 years of marriage, we have never isolated ourselves from the body of Christ. Many of you can say the same, to which I say, "Well done!"

The Real Jesus called forth a community to dwell in and work through, not a bunch of isolated, detached individuals. Call this “church.” Ekklesia

Ek + kaleo. The called-out-by-Christ people of God. 

Effective, Jesus-indwelt community requires individual and corporate humility. Every single person in the totality abandons themselves to the will, and ways, of God. This is Real Church. It’s a Communal Movement. 

I have met community-rejecting Christians who refuse to assemble with other believers. In this, they are biblical and theological apostates, no matter how bad they were treated. They have chosen pride over humility, bitterness over forgiveness, division over reconciliation, and fear over faith. 

If community-despising is in you and you don’t want to let it go, I suggest you not get a praying life. Because if you commit to praying, God will break your heart about this. This will be the initial thing God does for you. This is crucial, because his glory refuses to descend on a proud heart. Rather, God’s glory graces the humble heart. 

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(James 4:6) God graces and blesses the humble. This is community language. 

How very good and pleasant it is 

when kindred live together in unity! 

It is like the precious oil on the head, 

running down upon the beard, 

on the beard of Aaron, 

running down over the collar of his robes. 

It is like the dew of Hermon, 

which falls on the mountains of Zion. 

For there the LORD ordained his blessing,     

life forevermore. 

 

Psalm 133:1-3


The humble, unified Jesus Community can expect to experience God’s… 
• blessing 
• grace 
• glory 
• presence 
• leading 
• power 
• love 

Fellowship is where a lot of the action happens. Community is where humility and glory touch. Be praying for your Jesus Community, and your place in it.

(From John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Kindle Locations 3145-3171)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

You Can Give to Redeemer...

 


You can give to Redeemer's General Fund by...

Mailing a check to:

Redeemer Fellowship Church

5305 Evergreen

Monroe, MI

48161

Or, bringing your offering on a Sunday morning.

Or, as Linda and I do, giving an offering online. Click here to do that. http://www.redeemerfellowshipchurch.com/giving.html 

Giving to our General Fund goes towards: staff salaries (I don't take a salary), staff health insurance, mortgage, building insurance, missions, church supplies and ministries, janitorial services, lawn mowing, utilities, repairs and building upkeep, and more.

Thank you!

PJ


To Forgive or to Punish?

 

To Forgive or to Punish?

Lake Erie

I love talking about forgiveness, because God has forgiven me of so much over the years. I often think, how could I not forgive someone else when I have been forgiven so mercifully and graciously?

The life of every real Jesus-follower is a life of being forgiven and forgiving others. We are to confess our sins one to another, and then to forgive others if they sin against us. Forgive others, just as you have been forgiven.

To "forgive" mean: to cancel a debt. When you forgive someone you release them from any indebtedness towards you. That's what God has done, in Christ, for you. When you experience God's forgiveness, you don't need to pay anymore. The forgiven person goes free. God's forgiveness provides the ultimate "Get out of jail, free" card.

On the other hand, to withhold forgiveness is to say, "Let the punishment continue." To choose to not forgive someone for what they have done to you is to choose to make them continue paying. Unforgiveness locks the other person in the prison cell and throws away the key. If you refuse to forgive that person who has wounded you or stolen from you or done whatever to do, you administer 40 more lashes of the whip to their back, continuously.

Between forgiveness and unforgiveness there is no middle ground. It's always either freedom or bondage.  Unforgiveness is not a "waiting" thing, like "You will someday face execution for what you have done." Unforgiveness straps the offender into the electric chair now and turns the dial to "high."

When you forgive someone, you set them free. They don't deserve it. But you don't deserve it either. So, because Jesus has forgiven you and released you from your indebtedness to him, who are you not forgive those who have set foot on your ground and violated you?

When you withhold forgiveness, it's not that you order someone else to be punished. You become the Punisher. That says something about you. About your heart. It's a dark heart, gripped by the accuser, that walks in unforgiveness. It's a healed, forgiven, loved-and-loving heart that forgives and sets captives free.

***
My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available HERE and as a Kindle book HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Were You Saved During the Jesus Movement?

 


Were you saved during the Jesus Movement? Or, did you come to spiritual life during the Jesus Movement? Were you deeply affected by it, so that you have never been the same since?

I was.


THE JESUS MOVEMENT PROJECT 2020

During the months of October and November I want to collect testimonies of any who were saved during the Jesus Movement.

Then, I'll publish them in December, one or more a day. (If I get enough!)

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION

2-3 paragraphs at most.

Include your name, and where you now live.

Tell me what you were Before Christ.

Tell me how you were saved, or revived?

Tell me the difference it has made in your life.

I will edit the testimonies, for grammar, syntax, and clarity (if needed).

If this is for you, write your story out and email me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

And, Linda and I recommend, as likely the best book on the Jesus Movement, this: God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America

Put on your tie-dye t-shirt and begin to write.

Blessings!


John Piippo


Don't Accept Your Subhumanity

 



Often, when a person fails at something, they say "I'm only human." But from the Jesus POV, this is not true. If one were "only" human, 
truly human, then one would not morally or spiritually fail. People like N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, and Thomas Merton all agree with this.

Wright points to that Sea of Galilee story, when Jesus walks on water and calls to Peter, "Come!" Peter comes, walks for a moment, then falls in. The falling-in is not because he is "only human," but because he is not human. The Jesus who becomes "fully man" (as well as "fully God") walks on water because he is just that. In Jesus we see mere humanity, true humanity.

In his sermon "Dreaming of a White Easter," Wright says that, as dwellers in Christ, "we can really live without being greedy and snatching at power and using other people as objects in your quest for pleasure or prestige." Most of the world has no idea that this is possible. You might as well have snow at Easter. As one of the greatest early Christians put it: it’s ridiculous, and that’s why it’s true. Nobody would have made this stuff up." You and I are meant to be signs to the world who "show the full glory of what human life was meant to be, and to cut across the shallow lies that drag us down and make us, frankly, sub-human." Part of Christ being formed in us (Gal. 4:19) is that his full humanity becomes ours.

Dallas Willard, in "Spiritual Formation: What It Is, and How It Is Done," writes: "Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ." What does that look like? Willard refers to 1 Corinthians 13 and writes: "There is a real possibility of looking at I Corinthians 13, for example, and being able to see that the love that is portrayed there can actually come to occupy the human heart. People can really be like that--"Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." People can be like that, not because they do such things, but because agape love has occupied them effectively as a result of their having learned how to receive it into the deepest part of their being."

People can really be like that. To be like that is to be human. This is so huge I can hardly bear it. Arguing by via negativa, if this were not true, than things like 1 Corinthians 13 that speak of such transcendent love are carrots forever dangling before hungry rabbits. The famous "love chapter" then becomes either fiction, or merely descriptive of God, but inapplicable to us, the result being we are forever subhuman.

Merton expresses his longing to transcend subhumanity and ascend to true humanity when he writes: "One cannot remain immobile where the political and aesthetic customs and potentialities are so conspicuous and compelling: one must take another step." These words defined Merton's "personal vocation," which is the vocation of us all; namely, to go beyond the vast limitations of our subhumanity. Merton writes:

"I must - in my writing, in my prayer, in my life - take this further step and go beyond my limitations and the limitations of thought, art and religion of our time. And this requires effort and suffering. I simply cannot sit down and accept my limitations - that is impossible. But I must take care most of all not to be content with merely fanciful transcedence - going beyond my limitations in thought and imagination only. It must be a real transcendence." (A Year With Thomas Merton, Kindle, 5057-5070)

I must be transformed into true humanity. I must transcend the limitations of subhumanity that result in impotent and impoverished living. Our world needs Jesus, and I am called to host his presence. Christ in us. That's the hope of glory. Amazingly, "we are partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1)

"Mere humanity" abides like a branch in a Vine and does the kind of things Jesus did and even more. That is the promise and destiny of every real follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

What Do We Do When Loving God Conflicts with Loving Our Neighbor?

 I am posting this article, in its entirety, from Dr. Michael Brown. International House of Prayer has it on their website.


What Do We Do When Loving God Conflicts with Loving Our Neighbor?

by Dr. Michael L. BrownI

f you’ve read the Gospels, you know that Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:35–40). What do we do when there’s a perceived conflict between the two and when it feels as if we have to decide between loving God or loving our neighbor?

On the one hand, the Scriptures teach plainly that allegiance to God always comes first, to the point that we have to side with Him even against our own families if they turn away from the Lord (in the Old Testament, see Deuteronomy 13:6–11; in the New Testament, see Matthew 10:34–37).

On the other hand, the Word warns us against hypocritical religion, challenging those who claim to love God (whom they cannot see) while failing to love their brother or sister in the Lord (whom they can see; 1 John 4:20). James also defines true religion as caring for the widow and orphan and keeping ourselves unstained by the world (James 1:27).

Why do I bring this issue up?

Many followers of Jesus today are deeply convicted over the issue of homosexuality, knowing that the Word clearly prohibits homosexual practice and defines marriage as the lifelong union of a man and woman, yet they have friends or family members who identify as gay, and these are people whom they dearly love and do not want to hurt.

How can they say to their gay friends, “I love you and I want you to be happy, but I cannot affirm your ‘marriage’ to your partner”?

How can they tell a terrific gay couple that these two men (or women) do not provide the best parents for a child, even a handicapped, unwanted child for whom they would provide love and support?

How can they tell a young gay person who wants to follow Jesus, “You have to be celibate for the rest of your life unless the Lord changes your sexual and romantic desires”?

Recent polls indicate that among committed religious Americans, the vast majority oppose redefining marriage while, conversely, among irreligious Americans, the vast majority support gay “marriage.” That’s not surprising in the least, and it really tells us something about the differences between a God-centered, biblical worldview and a worldview based on humanism.

Those same polls indicate that people who know a good number of homosexual men and women strongly favor redefining marriage while people who know few or no gay men and women strongly oppose. Obviously, getting to know people personally often changes our perspectives, since we often stereotype those we don’t know (or, worse still, demonize them).

What happens, then, if you’re a committed Christian and your new lesbian neighbors turn out to be two of the sweetest ladies you’ve ever met, doing Bible studies in their home, attending a gay-affirming church, visiting a community center for the elderly on a weekly basis, and raising two delightful daughters?

What happens when you find out that, aside from the fact that they are in a lesbian relationship, they share your moral values and love to tell other people about Jesus?

If this does not cause any pain in your heart or move you to get alone with God and pray, then I would dare say something is lacking in your compassion for your fellow human beings.

That’s why I’ve often said that the scriptural arguments for homosexual relationships are weak (really, they are nonexistent) but the emotional arguments for homosexual relationships are powerful. And that’s why I live daily with the holy tension of “reach out and resist,” meaning, reaching out to LGBT people with compassion while resisting the gay agenda with courage.

I take this stand with absolute conviction of the rightness of God’s ways, knowing without a doubt that the Lord has spoken clearly in His Word about homosexual practice. At the same time, I do so with a broken heart, sometimes with tears, knowing that to the LGBT community, my solidarity with God and His Word feels to them like rejection, judgmentalism, and even hatred.

Recently, I was talking to a restaurant manager who asked me what I did for Father’s Day. As far as I know, this gentleman is gay, and when I asked him about what he did on Father’s Day, he talked about seeing his dad but said nothing about his kids, and my heart sank for him as he spoke.

How can I, a follower of Jesus, stand against him raising children with his partner?

How can I, as a lover of God—and my neighbor—tell my neighbor that I cannot recognize his “marriage”?

How can I, as someone who believes that “love does no harm to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10), hold to a position that he finds harmful?

The answer is simple but painful. It is only by loving and honoring God that we can truly love our neighbor, and no matter how difficult the pill might be to swallow, we must not dilute or twist a single word that He has spoken.

That’s why we need hearts of compassion and backbones of steel, weeping in secret for the souls of LGBT people whom we love and do not want to hurt while holding fast to the ways of the Lord, knowing that He loves them far more than we ever will and being sure that His ways are best.

The Bible and Homosexuality - What Do We Do?

 

This is for persons who are followers of Jesus and have a high view of the authority of the Bible. That is, persons who look to the Bible as framing their worldview.

So - what about same-sex sexual relationships and same sex marriage? There is not one verse in the Book that affirms them.

I'm not making this up. 

So, look at this reasoning.

1. Not one verse in the Book affirms same sex marriage.

2. God affirms same sex marriage.

How, in the name of Logic, can statements 1 and 2 be held, simultaneously, to be true? Minimally, it's difficult, requiring an unconvincing (to me and many others) display of hermeneutical gymnastics.

What do we do about this, we (and you) who love Jesus? Here's something from Michael Brown.

"So where does that leave us when it comes to the subject of the Bible and homosexuality? It leaves us in a place of humility before God, not condemning others, not judging with a harsh and censorious spirit, and searching our own hearts for sin and hypocrisy. It also leaves us jealous for God’s best, recognizing that His ways alone are the path of life. And it leaves us clinging tightly to the Lord and His Word, not wanting to impose our values, standards, and opinions on God’s Word but rather asking our heavenly Father to help us form our values, standards, and opinions based on the Scriptures. Otherwise, as Augustine once warned, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”" (Michael Brown, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, p. 45)

The interpretive method is to get at the meaning of the text, independently of what you or I want the text to say. But do you like it? This is irrelevant, to meaning of texts. (To persons who have unthinkingly succumbed to postmodern hermeneutics, which logicians and scientists abhor, there is no meaning to texts. But that's another story...)

(See also International House of Prayer, which has this posted on their website - https://www.ihopkc.org/resources/blog/loving-god-loving-our-neighbor/ )

Brown, Michael L.. Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality (p. 45). Charisma House. Kindle Edition. 

Wisdom

 


Image result for john piippo dune
(Me, climbing the big dune at Warren Dunes State Park, in Michigan)
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7

I begin this day by opening up the Bible to Proverbs. I slow-cook in it. To acquire wisdom you have to marinate in God's slow-cooker.

This is why, in 1970, I changed my college major to philosophy. The word "philosophy" means "the love of wisdom" (philo-sophia).

As a philosopher, I read the world's wisdom literature.  This is what philosophers do.  I have read Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, Descartes and Hume, Anselm and Aquinas, the Buddha and Confucius, the Upanishads and the Koran, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre, Russell and Wittgenstein, Foucault and Derrida, Merton and Nouwen, and you name it over the past fifty years. (!!!) I read philosophy when driving the car. It is my bathroom reading. I study it. Scholars have taught me. 

Many are wiser than I. I learn from them. But, I do love wisdom. I treasure it. It has supreme value to me. I am always going after it.

The love of wisdom is not a claim to be wise. Saying "I have become wise" is an indicator of foolishness. But, you won't be wise without having a core desire for wisdom.

Above all else, desire wisdom.

Have you seen those cartoons, where someone seeking wisdom struggles to the top of a mountain, to ask a white-bearded man with long grey hair a question? For me, the book of Proverbs lies open on summit. God meets me, on the mountain, this morning.

"Above all else," I am told, "get wisdom." 

Above everything else? 

Above money? 

Above fame? 

Above beauty? 

Above possessions? 

Yes! To understand this is to be wise. To think otherwise is to be an ordinary fool. 

This morning I'm after some more wisdom. I collect it like diamonds, and mount them in my journal. I polish them by reading, and re-reading them. 

I am reading Proverbs in Eugene Peterson's The Message. Peterson writes a beautiful introduction to Proverbs on its core theme.

Wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom may contain knowledge; knowledge may have no wisdom.

"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)

Peterson writes:

  • Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children,
  • and handling our money,
  • skillful in conducting our sexual lives,
  • and going to work,
  • skillful in exercising leadership,
  • and using words well,
  • skillful in treating friends kindly,
  • and eating and drinking healthily,
  • and cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace,
  • Skillful in living well, and in robust sanity.
  • Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God. (Ib.)
Here I go again, ascending to the mountain top.


"These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David's son, Israel's king -

written down so we'll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it's going."

Proverbs 1:1

***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE
Paperback HERE and HERE.
Hard cover HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Adultery: It's Not Complicated (Some Moral Truths Don't Change)


Worship at Redeemer - it's not as complicated as it looks
(I'm re-posting this for X.)

When it comes to "sin," things have pretty much been the same over the centuries. Stealing is still experienced as wrong. Lying, too. Hating, as well. Also, killing innocent people for fun. And so on.

And adultery, too. It's not really complicated. And, there's a lot of moral subjective relativism involved, which is something logicians abhor. (See, e.g., the logic text I used at MCCC - Vaughn's Critical Thinking.)

As far as I can tell, Facebook popularized the response, "It's complicated." I remember reading a woman's Facebook page. She described her extramarital affair as, "It's complicated." 

This silly meme fails to get at the truth, which is: It's not complicated. Not really. Adultery boils down to one truth: she chose not to keep her vows. 

But what about the reasons underlying the breaking of the wedding promise? Are the reasons for the deception complicated? Not really. Adultery is unoriginal and uncreative. It's boring. Reasons for adultery are easy to unravel. They boil down to the binary algorithm "either-or." At some point a choice is made. Adultery presents us with nothing new under the sun.

Truth is not complicated. It may be hard to understand at times, but not because it is complicated. Truth is binary. Truth is either-or. 

In my logic classes I demystify the nature of rationality and clear away the foggy delusion of "complicated." I explain that a statement is a sentence that is either true or false. A statement describes a state of affairs that either obtains, or it does not. Period. (If that astonishes you, then I wish you had taken one of my Logic classes at MCCC. Or, pick up any university Logic text and begin to read.)

"It's complicated" presents the adulterer as some kind of mysterious genius who has woven a web of relationships that only they understand. They are a complicated person, epistemically inaccessible to common folks. As if they have figured this horror out, when all they really did was old-fashioned cheating and hiding. 

Cheat and hide. Again and again, as they faced ever-growing waves of *Kierkegaardian either-ors and, simply and as old as humanity, chose evil. That's not very complicated, right?

Some things just don't change. Some moral values have not "evolved." And, if moral truths did keep changing, then the moral truths of today will be unpopular moral falsehoods tomorrow, so why adhere to any of them? (Some philosophical atheists would agree here.)

(The same, of course, goes for men.)

***

*Shall we choose the feeling/aesthetic life, or the ethical life? See Kierkegaard, Either-Or. A choice may be difficult, but not because it is "complicated."

***
My first book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

My second book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I'm now in process of writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

After that, Linda and I intend to write our book on Relationships.